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Martinez teachers donned black on Friday to mourn the loss of colleagues whose jobs evaporated in the face of a statewide fiscal crisis. In Dublin, parents rallied around Nielsen Elementary School -- before the school board voted last week to shut it down to save money.

In Alameda, students marched out of class and into the headlines as they protested cuts to sports, counselors and music.

"I don't understand how they could do this," said Encinal High sophomore Lauri Reeves-Walker, 16. "I mean, I love this school."

Anger and resentment over statewide cuts to education is prompting protests at campuses across the East Bay as school districts slash spending and jobs.

Parents and teachers rallied Friday in Oakland at the Melrose Bridges Academy. Teachers in San Lorenzo will protest Tuesday. Parents incensed over music cuts at Campolindo High School in Moraga plan to storm the Acalanes school board meeting Wednesday.

In Alameda and Contra Costa counties, school districts plan to chop an estimated $150 million combined from their 2008-09 budgets, or about 5 percent, according to a Times analysis.

Most of the money-saving came from cutting jobs.

Schools statewide have sent nearly 14,000 layoff notices to teachers to date, according to the California Teachers Association, meaning that roughly 4 percent of California's 340,000 teachers could be laid off.

"It's just awful," said David Sanchez, president of the state teachers union. "It's a big mess.


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Local school districts rely largely on state dollars to pay salaries, buy books and run programs. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is pressing the Legislature to cut $4.5 billion from education to help overcome an $8 billion state budget deficit.

The Legislature, with its Democratic majority, could siphon more money from other programs rather than gut education. But many worry that the decision will come as late as fall, long after the June 30 deadline for school districts to pass their own budgets.

"That won't be of any help at all," said Ellen Elster, deputy superintendent of the Contra Costa County Office of Education. "By then, the teachers and people we laid off would be gone."

Today is the deadline to notify teachers who may lose their jobs the following year. March 15 is also the date by which school districts must show county education offices balanced budgets for the next three years.

To whittle their budgets to size, many school boards trimmed jobs.

West Contra Costa sent layoff notices to 62 teachers Friday. The Mt. Diablo school district has eliminated the equivalent of roughly 130 positions, among them librarians, teachers and special education aides. In Dublin, the school board cut back on music, libraries and middle school sports.

Unless the state economic picture improves this spring, the Pittsburg school district will raise class sizes, can its elementary school vice principals and strip away all crossing guards in order to fill a $5.1 million hole.

"These are horrendous decisions we've had to make," said Pittsburg Superintendent Barbara Wilson. "But in terms of preparing for next year, I have to prepare for the worst case scenario."

According to the Alameda County Office of Education, 15 of 18 districts there would have budget deficits if the governor's plan to cut education went through.

Even after making reductions, Martinez, Mt. Diablo and West Contra Costa school districts may remain in fiscal jeopardy. That likely means more jobs will be thrown on the line.

"We're going to be seriously downsizing," said Sheri Gamba, West Contra Costa's business services manager. "We're going to have to rethink what we're doing and how we're doing it."

The tumultuous state of education in California has shaken Concord mother Doris Demirjian to her core.

The 36-year-old stay-at-home mom worries about how unstable education funding will hurt her two sons in the Mt. Diablo school district. Mostly, though, she frets about making ends meet.

Her husband died of cancer in August. She planned to complete her credential and become a teacher.

But this week's downpour of pink slips drowned her job prospects.

"How am I going to support my children?" Demirjian said.

MediaNews staff writers Todd R. Brown, Tony Burchyns, Rowena Coetsee, Peter Hegarty, Paula King, Eric Louie, Katy Murphy, Elisabeth Nardi, Kristofer Noceda, Linh Tat, Paul Thissen, Kimberly S. Wetzel and Lisa P. White contributed to this story. Shirley Dang covers education. Reach her at 925-977-8418 or sdang@bayareanewsgroup.com.

ONLINE

See video on Alameda schools music program cuts at ContraCostaTimes.com.

INSIDE

Students march across the Carquinez bridge to protest layoffs. Page A3.

State needs sweeping education change, according to study. Page A3CWEA6, SVA7,